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$$ and Sense: Middle School Students Operate Bank

When it comes to crunching numbers, Valleywood Middle School eighth-grader Kristin Crumley is ready to help make things add up for her peers.

Psyched for her first day on the job as a bank manager, Kristin cut the ribbon to launch her school’s Comerica Bank Youth Savings Program.

It wasn’t just a game or financial activity. Kristin is truly a bank official who will help manage students’ money right inside the Kentwood Public Schools sixth- through eighth-grade building. One day each month, she will help open savings accounts and manage a staff of 10 students including an assistant manager, marketing representatives and tellers.

Together, the team of student bankers will take deposits, balance the tills and learn good customer service. Their classmates will learn to save money and set financial goals.

“I feel like it’s very productive and it helps others have a better future,” said Kristin, who applied and was selected for the bank manager position. She also opened her own savings account to sock away her allowance money for college and an iPhone.

The Youth Savings Program was started through a partnership with Comerica Bank and Heart of West Michigan United Way to get students saving young. Kent School Services Network coordinator Allison Corso helped implement the program with representatives of Comerica, the school’s neighborhood bank at 52nd Street SE and Kalamazoo Avenue.Valleywood Middle School eighth-grader Kristin Crumley takes her position as bank manager

Savings Add Up To Financial Security

“What we are helping them do is create a lifelong pattern of savings and building good financial habits,” said Patti Griswold, senior vice president of retail banking for Comerica Bank.

2011 research from the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, found that children with savings accounts are up to seven times more likely to attend college. They also develop pride, leadership and discipline, Griswold said.

Valleywood will have monthly “bank days” for students to deposit money. Students started with a minimum of $1 and can add up to $20 each bank day. They can also make deposits or withdrawals with their parents at any bank branch.

“The biggest thing is not about the amount they are putting in,” said Corso of Kent SchoolServices Network. “Even if you put in $1 every month that does create the pride of, ‘I am being steadfast and consistent at saving monthly and seeing it as an investment. I am investing in myself and my future because I see big and great things for me and I want to pursue those dreams.'”

Students learn the value of having an account of their own, said Jeanine Bryant, Community Reinvestment Act public affairs manager for Comerica Bank.

“Comerica is interested in making sure we invest in low- and moderate-income areas and making sure that students are educated on financial matters,” Bryant said. “Kids come into contact with a lot of money. We want to get them thinking about making goals and planning on how they spend it.”

Bank employees trained students to become bankers. Sixth-grade students Regi Hovermale and Kayla Haggerty took their spots as tellers and marketing managers. They described how they walk peers through starting their accounts from the initial hello to final receipt.

Sixth-grade bank tellers Kayla Haggerty and Regi Hovermale demonstrate how they help students open accounts“I’m really good at math, being creative and working with money,” Regi said. She plans to contribute $15 to $20 per month into her own account earned by babysitting and helping her father at his drywall business. “I just thought, why not make it a goal for myself?”

Maureen Noe, Heart of West Michigan United Way CEO, said all students have the right to a quality education so they can have a stable income. The Youth Savings Program helps students and schools achieve that goal by helping them become financially literate and learn to make good decisions with their money at a young age.

“You guys can learn about financial stability and banking, and maybe some of you will choose it as a career,” Noe told students. “We know for sure you are going to learn about saving money, about being good with the dollars you have.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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